Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

David Kahan - April 29, 1982


You arrived during the day?

During the day, yeah. No, I think we arrived during the night, but they didn't open the, the, the cars 'til in the morning. When we were, when I realized a bunch of people, that we were there and as a matter of fact five other friends of mine from my own hometown stuck together in the lines. They put us through shower baths. They, they told us to keep our shoes. That's the only thing we can. They gave us, then they gave us our concentration camp uniforms and uh, they marched us in, they de...deloused us, you know, because in the train already and from the ghetto a lot of people already had a lot of lice. They used D, DDT, called delousing and then they marched us in into those huge Auschwitz barracks.

You were shaved you said?

Shaved, yeah, that's right, right. Shaved, shaved completely. And, and uh, we were marched into the barracks in Auschwitz. Uh, we stood in line there uh, a, a Jewish prisoner, he was I think from Germany who was there for a long time held a, a speech to us--there were a couple SS standing next to him--that anyone who has got any valuables, gold, silver, any kind of jewelry, this is the time to bring it out and give it up right now. He said uh, yesterday seventeen people have lost their lives from not handing in their valuables. If you've got it in your shoes or wherever you had it hidden uh, this is the time, your last chance to give it up. A number of people stepped forward, gave up. Most of us didn't have anything. And uh, that started the life of Auschwitz. Uh, they gave us uh, the first meal next day was called der Gemüse, a mixture of, of, of uh, vegetables supposedly. But it was so terrible that for uh, two days most of us didn't eat. But after that we got hungry and we ate it. In the meantime word got around that those chimneys smoking there are our parents and our families. Finally it came home to us. You know, they found out from the other Polish Jews and just working Jews and others who were working in, in Auschwitz. Finally we were told the news. It was sort of unbelievable. We cried, then there was no tears left. We sort of turned into uh, stone. Uh, we prayed and, and uh, we just realized that a great tragedy has befallen us and we had no idea what's going to happen to us. But uh, I just tried to remember how our reaction was I, I think, I think uh, I wanted to survive whatever happens and I hoped that I will survive and, and I just uh, went on from day to day uh, getting up in the morning, being counted, given the ration of bread. Uh, people were being taken almost every day in transport to labor camps.

Did you work there?

Uh, no, I did not. While I was in Auschwitz, I did not work. We were strictly being kept uh, for uh, we were being kept until some request arrives from some German city or company to be shipped for labor. That was the idea of keeping the young and strong ones--to use them for labor instead of killing 'em off in the gas chambers like they did with the rest of our families.

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